Bellbird’s – The whole challenge!

As you may have been following in my step by step posts, I  made a Textile Art quilt for a challenge that my Art Group – Reddy Arts Textile Group undertook.

The challenge was to re-create a quilt from some lines or a stanza from Henry Kendall’s poem Bellbirds.  The display was exhibited in the Brisbane Queensland Quilters show in 2014 and then again at Reddy Arts  exhibition at Strathpine in 2015.  My first Bellbird quilt was in the Brisbane show.. with it’s replacement in the groups show at Strathpine Art Gallery.

Bellbirds is a poem by Henry Kendall (1839-1882) an Australian writer.

I thought you might like to see all the quilts that made up the display:

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“By Channels of Coolness”                       Jan Hutchison

“By channels of coolness the echoes are calling,
And down the dim gorges I hear the creek falling:
It lives in the mountain where moss and the sedges
Touch with their beauty the banks and the ledges”

 In my first serious attempt at textile art I wanted to make the fabrics do the talking in order to bring the scene together. After researching images of gorges, creeks, waterfalls, bellbird country and Australian bush and noting design elements in order to mirror Henry Kendall’s poetic imagery, I drew on aspects from three images for my initial drawing. Having developed my own illustration, I then translated it over many weeks into a workable piece of textile art.

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“Struggles of Light and Life”                  Sue Duffy

Through breaks of the cedar and sycamore bowers
Struggles the light that is love to the flowers;
And, softer than slumber, and sweeter than singing,
The notes of the bell-birds are running and ringing.”

Entranced by the sound of the bellbirds when first I heard them, this challenge led me to discover a circle of life: the calls of these aggressive birds, which harvest the sugary lerps produced by sap sucking psyllids on certain eucalypts, are a warning to insect-eating birds to keep away. The bellbirds are abundant, nesting in protective lantana introduced by man; the psyllids, unchecked, cause dieback of the native forest.

Birds based on images photographed by myself, and by Julian Robinson, Frank Carey, Marie Louise, M Dahlem, and C Kellenberg. Used with permission.

To read more about this incredible quilt visit Sue’s blog ..

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“The Silver-voiced Bell Birds”     Jeannie Henry

“The silver-voiced bell birds, the darlings of daytime!
They sing in September their songs of the May-time;”

I read this poem many times over with the same visual coming to mind: birds in the branches above a waterfall and flowing stream. Cool, crisp, fresh air, mosses, ferns and craggy rock surfaces. The greens, browns and purples of the birds inspired my colour scheme.

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“When Thunderbolts Hurtle”            Alex Stogdale

“When shadows wax strong, and the thunder bolts hurtle,
They hide with their fear in the leaves of the myrtle;
When rain and the sunbeams shine mingled together,
They start up like fairies that follow fair weather;”

Having been in a forest during a thunderstorm, seeing birds sheltering, I immediately knew how I wanted to portray the lines in an unconventional way. Finding the right fabric was a dilemma until I saw the dyed velvet; the rest just fell into place.

Techniques: Free motion stitching, needle felting, machine embroidery, dyed velvet, burnt net, sequins, beads, sparkle polyester.

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“Bellbirds Too!”     Brenda Wood

“When rain and the sunbeams shine mingled together,
They start up like fairies that follow fair weather;

And straightway the hues of their feathers unfolden
Are the green and the purple, the blue and the golden.”

This is the second Bellbird Quilt I did as part of the Reddy Arts Bellbirds challenge. I focused on the words of my selected lines this time, graphically interpreting them with subtly.

Techniques: Sunprinted and oversprayed. Freemotion embroidery, applique, Acrylic inks and Sundye paints.

To read more about this quilt see my step by step posts…Bellbird Take #2 Step By Step Part 1

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“Tranquility”     Di Flint

October, the maiden of bright yellow tresses,
Loiters for love in these cool wildernesses;
Loiters, knee-deep, in the grasses, to listen,
Where dripping rocks gleam and the leafy pools glisten
Then is the time when the water-moons splendid
Break with their gold, and are scattered or blended
Over the creeks, till the woodlands have warning
Of songs of the bell-bird and wings of the Morning.”

The line: “October, the maiden of bright yellow tresses”, inspired in me a vision of sunrays filtering through the leaves onto the rocks and pools. The words leafy, glistening and cool led me to develop this piece of work.

Techniques:  Machine embroidery, cording and paint.

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Tranquility By Kim Boland

 “Then is the time when the water-moons splendid Break with their gold, and are scattered or blended Over the creeks, till the woodlands have warning Of songs of the bell-bird and wings of the Morning.”

My inspiration came from thinking of the tranquil, peaceful time at the break of day when the first golden rays filter through the bush to be reflected in creek waters. Being the last member to join this group challenge it was additionally challenging to create my piece after 10 other member’s interpretations.

Techniques – Surface design with free motion machine stitching on cotton fabric and raw edged machine applique.

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“Nature’s Symphony”     Jill Burgess

“Welcome as waters unkissed by the summers
Are the voices of bell-birds to the thirsty far-comers.
When fiery December sets foot in the forest,
And the need of the wayfarer presses the sorest,
Pent in the ridges for ever and ever
The bell-birds direct him to spring and to river,”

My interest and challenge was to do this piece in black and white. I focused on the wayfarer finding his way, guided by the bellbirds, to water.

Techniques; Paint, threads, hand embroidery and quilting

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“Often I Sit”         Donna Davis

“Often I sit, looking back to a childhood,
Mixt with the sights and the sounds of the wildwood,
Longing for power and the sweetness to fashion,
Lyrics with beats like the heart-beats of Passion; –
Songs interwoven of lights and of laughters
Borrowed from bell-birds in far forest-rafters;”

As a child I spent many hours just sitting, pondering, looking into the forest, listening to the bellbirds, and as an adult have always felt an affinity with Kendall”s poem. I have chosen to felt my “Bellbirds” challenge as I love the organic nature of the wool and the wonder of never knowing what is going to happen! Every creation is unique!

Mixed media: wool roving with embellishments, wet felted as one process; elephant dung paper; machine stitching.

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“In City and Alleys Deep Mountain Valleys”    Kate Watson

“So I might keep in the city and alleys
The beauty and strength of the deep mountain valleys:
Charming to slumber the pain of my losses
With glimpses of creeks and a vision of mosses.”

I felt my lines expressed a deep yearning to be back in the rainforest so I wanted that landscape to dominate the city and therefore I have made the mountains loom over the buildings and the creek spill with abandon over the city without particular reference to proportion.  I took several photographs in Brisbane as reflections in tall city buildings have always fascinated me, giving me a starting point for this project.   I tend to see things in shapes and colours rather than realistically and like to use material as I might in water colour painting, as washes of suggestion with discreet stitching emphasizing detail as demonstrated in this piece.

Techniques: I chose material for the water first which dictated the rest of the work using both machine and hand stitching, and machine quilting.


The quilts were hung in order along  wall with the information for each quilt displayed.

3 thoughts on “Bellbird’s – The whole challenge!

  1. Great blog – thanks for the accolade… I didn’t win a prize though… Jeannie’s won Best use of Colour, though, at QQS, and both of Brenda’s entries won first prizes at QQS in different years!!!!


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